There’s something to be said for finding and reading a story by itself, even if it's part of a series. It gives you the chance to ease into it. It gives you the chance to decide whether the writer is a fit for you without feeling obligated to see it through. Less pressure. And no doubt, cheaper. *winks*
Me? I’m a series girl. As an avid fantasy fiction reader, I’m thrilled when authors provide bundles, when I know they’ve taken the time to see their series through. Lord knows, sometimes we writers want to walk away and not finish. We’ve got a new story idea, another character eager to have her story told. So in my book, kudos to authors who allow their characters to finish their tales.
Had she ever been this comfortable? The heavy thud of rain pelted the ceiling overhead. Her mother must be cooking something scrumptious. It smelled wonderful, slightly sweet, apples? No. More like cinnamon and nutmeg melting over a low flame, yet earthy and potent. What was that?
She smiled and opened her eyes. My, it was dark in her room, must be the storm outside. Then the rain became the steady thud of a heart and her pillow became the muscled chest of a man.
Coira froze. Where was she?
"I know you're awake, lass." The brogue was as deep and sensual as smooth whisky.
She jerked up and slammed into the pewter gaze of the man staring down at her. She sat cradled in his lap, both his strong arms and a rough tartan cocooning her. Darn it.
"Release me this instant, you lout!" she hissed.
William did not release her but bared his straight white teeth in a wolfish grin and pulled her closer. "But you seemed so peaceable a moment ago. In fact, if I didnae know better I would have thought you—"
She clamped a hand over his mouth, knowing full well he was about to say something appalling. She narrowed her eyes. "Shush."
"Shush?" He pried her hand from his mouth but did not release it. Instead he turned it over, his eyes falling to the glimmering diamond engagement ring on her finger. "Do you love him?"
She hadn't expected the question and he knew it. "Of course I do."
His silver regard returned to her face. Whatever he saw there pleased him. "As a friend."
She frowned. No. Not as a friend, as a fiancé. "No, as a man."
Were his lips edging closer?
His hand traced her jaw line. "A man who is a friend."
What did he just say? His forefinger and thumb clutched her chin. She would not be distracted and spoke with a level of calm she didn't feel. "A friend who is a fiancé." Lord, that hadn't come out right at all.
"So 'tis to be a marriage of convenience." His throaty declaration brought his lips closer.
Her eyelids became very heavy, and her lips throbbed. "Is it not convenient to marry a friend?" Again, not what she intended to voice.
His lips were within an inch of hers, his burr soft. "Aye, 'tis convenient enough, but what of passion?"
SKY HERE. Did you actually think I would give away the kiss? Not on your life! But I will share more....
"Up, lass." His words matched his actions, and she was lifted and placed on the ground. Coira opened her eyes and glared. She felt like sampled goods.
"Don't kiss me again." She met his eyes with her order.
One corner of William's mouth inched up as he strode past her. "I didnae kiss you. You kissed me, so you best tell yourself not to kiss me again."
She rounded on him as two horses approached. His chestnut mount and the black horse she'd ridden the day before. "I didn't kiss you, and I'm not riding that horse again."
He offered a small smile and swung astride his mount. "Then walk, because you're not riding with me."
Coira tempered her rage. She was good enough to kiss but not good enough to ride with? Then good sense got the better of her. She'd made it clear yesterday she had no desire to ride with him and that remained the same. Or so she tried to convince herself. She eyed the black beast and wondered if she dared to ride him again.
She should thank him for his courtesy but decided against it. Though thoroughly aggravated with him, she needed him. "Will you help me mount?"
William snickered. "Nay."
She spun back and planted her hands on her hips. "Foolish of me to think you might have even an ounce of gentleman in you."
He laughed, the sound deep and enticing. "I'm a Scotsman and a barbarian, aye? Why would you now seek me to be a gentleman? Mayhap if I had a wee bit o' English in me—"
"No more, I'll mount on my own. I don't need your help." She turned away from the brute and stepped closer to the horse. She’d done this before and could very well do it again.
There was a hip-high rock mere feet from them. She strode to the rock and turned back to face the horse. "Come here. I wish to mount you."
Coira repeated her request to the beast, but he remained impassive. She knew what he wanted. And she wasn't going to give it to him. Coira strode forward until she stood nose to nose with the horse. "Please come with me. I implore you."
The horse tilted his head in acknowledgment and then trotted over to the rock. Coira sighed with relief, ran to the rock, and swung onto the horse's back. She had done it again!
She turned the mount and held her head high. "I'm ready."
William grinned, brought his horse alongside hers and winked. "See how well we Scottish males respond to a soft female brogue."